I have been pondering on this question for a while, in an effort to always question the organization’s Vision and whether or not the value we deliver to the market is something tangible to management teams.
When I share the difference between purpose and financial results, and how financial results are equivalent to breathing but our purpose is not to breath, I find agreement and usually delight. Unfortunately the majority of organizations have a purpose to breath only (financial results), which is fundamentally wrong and does not allow sustainability of the organization. What challenged me is the response “You are correct, but do you think any Board of Directors, CEO, Managing Director, or any type of management team will accept that purpose drives results? They are too concerned about delivering financial bottom line results!! All this talk about purpose is nice and I do agree with you but it won’t sell in the corporate world“
A part of me understands where they are coming from but another part knows that when we talk about the importance of Purpose in the organization we are talking about tangible, financial, meaningful results that have impact. Purpose for an organization drives purpose in those that work within that same organization and society as a whole. The effect of purpose integrated into the business cycle results in tangible numbers that you see in your P/L and beyond. Individual team members with a purpose that is aligned with your organizations purpose have a higher sense of morale, collaboration, innovation, endurance, culture, and loyalty. If you are part of a management team and don’t see that all these elements deliver tangible results, you need to look at your organization in depth.
Another executive might come and say our company’s purpose is to achieve higher profits or higher returns for shareholders, but if we go back to human nature we will find that financial results alone do not drive a company to survive during a crisis, market transformation, competition, or simply develop a culture that delivers results. A silo focus on achieving financial results delivers a stagnant organization, one that is not able lead or even to catch up to the market. When you have team members coming into a job merely to make money, what kind of results do you expect?
Jack Welch has called the single-minded pursuit of shareholder value the “dumbest idea in the world; Gary Hamel has devoted now two must-read books to examining why management’s hit a human wall, and what to do about it; Umair Haque said “you’re going to have to come up with a more meaningful answer to the great existential question of enterprise.”
The purpose of a company is to make a positive impact on the lives of others within society as a whole. Society is composed of customers, employees, shareholders, community, vendors, partners, and subcontractors. For an organization to deliver purposeful results we suggest the following broad steps:
1- Identify how your product and service directly or indirectly affects the everyday life of your consumer and how it can resemble to them more than just a consumable product or service.
2- Develop a process for individuals within your organization to identify their purpose in life.
3- Provide them with the necessary atmosphere, system, space and policies that allow for innovation in integrating their purpose with the company’s purpose to drive financial results.
4- Develop a process to identify future team members, with a aligned purpose to the company.
Is purpose alone the solution? Or is this how life is supposed to be, work is just to make money and we can have a purpose somewhere else? How do I identify my organization’s purpose?
All of these are questions and more, are common when you are trying to relate something as intangible as purpose to something as tangible as financial results. But the fact that you are questioning is the first step and continued step towards leashing the true potential of your organization.